A recent in-depth review of Asustek's PadFone is a good jumping off point for a broad and significant question-is there a hybrid in our mobile future?
SAN JOSE – Notebooks, netbooks, smartphones, tablets…what other sorts of systems or combinations of existing systems are out there to be discovered?
That’s the question Asustek posed about a year ago with its PadFone, a smartphone that docks into a tablet-sized screen. It aims to give users something more because the docked device is completely synched in software and has more battery life than two separate systems.
I give Asus kudos for experimenting, trying to find creative ways to leverage its notebook expertise into the new mobile world. But it’s not clear how successful this particular experiment will be.
Apple’s Tim Cook flatly says hybrids will not be significant, but I am not so sure. Engineers have been tinkering with hybrids since the days when Palm founder Jeff Hawkins created the convertible tablet/notebook. The convertible design predates Hawkins’ development of the Palm Pilot, arguably the only successful PDA.
The big problem for the Asus PadFone to date is that the company can’t get its hands on enough Qualcomm Snapdragon chips. Come this fall those chip should start to flow as Qualcomm brings on more 28 nm sources, so new customers like Asus can continue these kinds of experiments.
Indeed, Taiwan’s notebook engineers are still cutting their teeth on a wealth of ARM-based SoCs, the deep details of Android and Windows 8 RT. I believe something novel will come from their experiments. Apple has a lot of great ideas, but so do other engineers all around the world.
Engadget just posted an amazingly comprehensive review of the PadFone. I’d love to hear what smart mobile engineers think of their review and of the concept of hybrids in general. So please chime in.